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Michael at 13

Michael was 13 on September 27. This birthday post is a bit late. There’s been a lot on.

Michael loves to read. He continues to enjoy the Economist when other offerings are not available but, as a rule, he prefers fiction to non-fiction. He has a slightly annoying habit of picking up a book and launching in to it just as you are about to start in on it yourself but his parents are sustained by the smugness that comes from having a child who likes to read the same kinds of books as they do.

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Other hobbies include playing games on his phone which he definitely regards as a hobby but I wouldn’t call that a hobby as such. He’s still playing hockey which he really enjoys (being Michael he wouldn’t go to training, if he didn’t) and he was quite excited when they were due to play hockey during PE one day at school. Sadly, his schoolmates, who play more hurling and camogie than hockey, did not fully grasp the rules and he returned home outraged because they had been kicking the ball around the field and raising sticks above their shoulders. He is still doing drama which he likes as well. He has games club after school on Tuesday where he plays Dungeons and Dragons type games with other enthusiasts and a saintly teacher who will surely get his reward in heaven. He also still likes playing cards and board games if he can persuade the rest of us to play with him.

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Despite eating almost nothing he has shot up over the past six months (shout out to toast and honey which appears to be all a growing boy needs) and is now almost as tall as me. It’s only a question of time before he passes me out. He is still very skinny so it is hard to find trousers that are both long enough to not flap around the ankles and tight enough at the waist to not fall down. He basically has the figure of a super model.

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His voice has broken and it’s quite deep although not as deep as his brother’s. He’s still losing teeth (how is this possible?) but I think he may, at last, have lost the final baby teeth.

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He cycles in and out to school and is still alive. I have to say, although I am getting less nervous, he still has to go an approved route which is longer than his preferred route. He does not love this.

He and his brother are great friends. Although they can really annoy each other, they have lots and lots in common and mostly they are having slightly incomprehensible conversations about video games and dungeons and dragons. He gets on reasonably well with his sister but he has managed fine in her absence for the past couple of months occasionally forgetting that she is in another country rather than holed up in her room.

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Unlike his brother and sister he is not particularly competitive and is inclined to let things go. These characteristics (which do not come from me, I fear) make for a charming companion but not for someone who is particularly driven. He is never happier than when he is left at home to do nothing. These are categorically the best kinds of days for Michael.

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In general, he loathes outings but he is resigned regarding them as part of the rain that must fall in every life. He did comment to me once, in a moment of bitterness, that in his view there is no such thing as fun for all the family.

He seems to be well settled in school. Academically he seems to be grand and his dyslexia (which happily doesn’t affect his reading but manifests itself in spelling problems) seems to have improved enormously which is great. He’s learnt to touch type and his fingers seem better at knowing what to spell when typing. Spell check doesn’t hurt either. Socially, he knows the drill and what is expected of him and he seems to be popular with teachers and fellow students without caring even slightly what they think of him so long as they do not impinge on his comfort. He ploughs his own furrow our Michael.

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He is the world’s most sentimental 13 year old. “A Muppet Christmas Carol” is his favourite film and he and I are looking forward to sitting down together and watching it on Christmas Eve. I recently made the very significant mistake of giving some of his old toys to his one year old cousin. Poor decision. He is bitter. In my defence I would point out that he has not played with these toys in many years. I won’t be doing that again. He was utterly unimpressed by his aunt telling him that his 10 year old cousin had looked out some toys for the one year old. “If that’s what she wants, that’s fine,” he said shooting me a venomous glance. As I say, he is not one to modify his behaviour to meet societal expectations.

He continues to be endlessly charming and obliging. I find him delightful and although his siblings believe he is a shameless manipulator (“weasel” is the word I think I hear his siblings hiss at him) even they have to acknowledge that he is generally a peacemaker who tries to intervene when other family members go to war. When he is annoyed though, he is utterly terrifying and, as it is very rare, we take it seriously. When he doesn’t want to do something, it is far easier to stop doing it than to insist. He doesn’t use this power often but it is almost invariably effective. Currently I am persevering in sending him to a French class on Friday evenings which, crucially, I have paid for already for a term. He will finish at Christmas and it is hard to know who will be more pleased, him or me.

Overall though, things are good, I think. He seems happy and, better, in general, he is good at knowing what makes him happy which is a gift I would quite like to have for myself. He is the only person who rushes out to greet me when I come home from work and my heart does leap as he rushes out to the door, arms outstretched shouting, “Mama, Mama, you’re home!” I’m not sure that will last forever, so I suppose I should enjoy it while it does.

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